TFN’s Chris Francis completes his run down of the top 50 players outside the Premier League…
10. Troy Deeney (Watford)
As with many of the Hornets this season, the big centre forward has failed to match last season’s level, but he still remains a remarkably complete package. At his best he can be a snarling, in-your-face threat from inside or outside the box. Needs motivating to keep his workrate honest, but on his day he causes problems.
9. Sam Byram (Leeds)
Cardiff were reportedly quoted £8m for the Leeds youngster in the summer. Byram is a right back who is seen as much in the final third as the first. He is capable of lung-busting runs for a full game, and is a thoroughly modern, adventurous and physical player. Overlaps well, is strong in the tackle and is capable of playing further forward and more centrally. He took a clean sweep of the individual awards at Leeds’ end of season bash. A serious prospect.
8. Alex McCarthy (Reading)
The best keeper in the Championship? A big frame, strong communication skills and excellent reflexes make a top keeper. Would a large enough bid test Reading’s resolve to keep their star man? Still improving, he should be looking to get back in to the England squad. Premier League football is a must for him soon.
7. Will Hughes (Derby)
This is a player of rare talent. Hughes has long been courted by the very biggest clubs in England, and he continues to demonstrate what a superb prospect he is. He looks almost wispy on the pitch, but his touch, consistency, passing accuracy and desire to get forward are all highly desirable qualities. Derby have been re-energised under Steve Mclaren playing the most effective football in the league of yet, and Hughes will only benefit from working with such an outstanding coach. If Derby go up, he’ll stay you would imagine, but he will still be very much in demand.
6. Charlie Austin (QPR)
If it wasn’t for Danny Ings performing so well as his replacement at Burnley, Austin would have had even more hype. Austin has proven himself as a scorer already, but this season playing as a lone-man up front a lot of the time, he has proven there is more to his game than just that. He links play better now, and keeps his opposing centre halves busy throughout a full 90 minutes. 12 goals represents nearly 50% of his club’s entire haul this season.
5. Wes Morgan (Leicester)
The best centre-half in the league. Wes Morgan was a good player at Nottingham Forest, but since working with Nigel Pearson (a top-class centre back in his day) the big Leicester captain has taken his game forward again. He is commanding in the air, a good reader of the game, and surprisingly quick for a man with such bulk. Certainly better than a number of others in the league above.
4. Danny Ings (Burnley)
It is highly unlikely Burnley would even consider selling Ings, but they are not in the same financial situation as some of their promotion rivals so a big bid could twist their arm. Ings has shone all season, scoring all types of goals. He has also shown that he is more than just a good finisher as he has linked play, forged an outstanding partnership with his strike partner, Sam Vokes, and has made goals for himself. The hottest player in the Championship right now.
3. Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn)
Rovers have been able to consolidate in the past few months under the steadying hand of Gary Bowyer. Where they would have been without Rhodes though is anyone’s guess. The man is a goal machine, and his hunger to be on the end of any penalty box opportunity is what marks him out as special. Could he be the man to solve someone’s lack of goals? Movement, anticipation, and an ability to hit the ball early are his strengths. He needs to show off his abilities at a higher level at some point. He’d be expensive (Blackburn paid £8m for him less than two seasons ago) but could be a game changer for someone.
2. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)
Schmeichel played every game of Leicester’s past two seasons and a half seasons and has been their most consistent player throughout that period. His is a famous surname, and Kasper has much of Peter about. He stands tall and long, reads the game well, and is able to start attacks accurately from deep. Although he is quick off his line and makes saves other keepers cannot, he has also improved under the high ball. He is also capable of roaring at his defenders. If Leicester fail to get promoted again, this will be his last season at this level. Already a full international with Denmark, Kasper is ready to play regularly in a top European league.
1. Tom Ince (Blackpool)
He was convinced by his father to stay on with the club for at least one more season, but half way through that period might be the best time to cash in as clubs may well overpay. It has been a difficult season for Blackpool, predominantly through injury problems, but Ince has still stood out. With rumours emerging that mega rich Monaco may even be interested, he is an England player of the future surely. Quick, intelligent, tactically aware, and with excellent economy of energy, Ince is a technically sound player. Very different on the surface from his father (a bite-yer-legs midfielder of the highest order) he does share many qualities, not least his ability to lead through sheer weight of performance. Nominally a left winger, you feel he would be able to fit in to most top-sides formations in one of the positions behind the central striker.